A decade after the largest golf boom any state has ever experienced, Michigan witnessed similar explosive growth in the number of casinos from 2007-09.
Coincidence? I think not.
Golf by day. Gaming by night. Are you all in at Michigan's five best golf and gambling destinations?
Birdies and Blackjack in the Upper Peninsula
Michigan's gaming industry began north of the Mackinac Bridge in the Upper Peninsula. The Bay Mills Indian Community claims to be the first in the nation to open a tribal casino, way back in 1980. The tribe's earnings eventually helped build the 142-room Bay Mills Resort & Casino, Michigan's only waterfront casino on the shores of Waishkey Bay, in 1995. Architect Mike Husby added the final piece, the Wild Bluff Golf Course, three years later. A ridge through the 7,056-yard course provides views of the bay and a cool driving range looking down on target greens in the shape of a heart, diamond, spade and club. Michelle Wie once played Bay Mills as a teenager during a Canadian Tour event.
Several hours to the west, the Island Resort & Casino in Harris boasts, without a doubt, Michigan's best golf-casino package. The Perfect 4-some Package includes two nights at the hotel and rounds at the resort's Sweetgrass Golf Club, Greywalls at Marquette Golf Club and the five-star TimberStone at Pine Mountain. Sweetgrass, an elegant Paul Albanese design, will host the ladies of the Symetra Tour for the fourth straight season in 2014.
Traverse City two-step
The Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel in Williamsburg and the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa in Acme -- both owned by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians -- share a shuttle service to promote synergy. A perfect day would flow like this: Playing Grand Traverse Resort's Bear Course in the morning, followed by a treatment at the spa, dinner at Aerie Restaurant on the 16th floor of the tower and capped off by some gambling at the seven-story Turtle Creek complex built in 2008. This player's palace consists of two restaurants, six bars, a nightclub and a 54,000-square-foot gaming floor with more than 1,500 slots, 30 table games and a poker room.
Staying and playing in Petoskey
All three Boyne USA Resort properties in northern Michigan -- The Inn at Bay Harbor in Petoskey, Boyne Highlands Resort in Harbor Springs and Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls -- offer $25 slot vouchers to the Odawa Casino Resort in Petoskey for every golfer who buys a stay-and-play package. The best part about the deal, though, is the free shuttle ride to and from the casino. No need to worry about a designated driver or getting lost on dark northern Michigan roads. The shortest trip to the casino -- and best golf experience -- comes courtesy of Bay Harbor on the shores of Lake Michigan. Both the inn and 27-hole golf club deliver some of best lakeside views in the Midwest.
Odawa, built in 2007, becomes a hotbed of entertainment at night. The Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians spared no expense replacing the pedestrian Victories Casino with a $140 million tribute to the tribe. More than 15,000 square feet of hand-laid tile decorate the main atrium. Roughly 140 flat-screen TVs populate the casino floor and the Ozone nightclub, northern Michigan's best answer to a Vegas-style nightclub. An all-white interior enhances light shows best viewed from a VIP party pod that seats eight people.
On the money in Manistee
Golfers who come to the Manistee National Golf & Resort tend to frequent the nearby Little River Casino Resort, which has continued to expand since its 1999 debut. The two courses at Manistee National, Cutter's Ridge and Canthooke Valley, remain two of the state's most underrated treasures. Manistee National's 42-room Inn and the 292-room hotel at the casino offer the area's best accommodations. The casino houses three restaurants, more than 1,300 slots and 28 table games and a 1,600-seat events center.
Luxury on and off the course in metro Detroit
A golf package at the MGM Grand Detroit includes access to the private Tournament Players Club of Michigan, transportation to and from the Dearborn course and one night to experience all the wonders of MGM. Luxury lives throughout the 400-room hotel and casino: Signature restaurants by celebrity chefs, multiple nightclubs and bars, and even flat screen televisions embedded in the bathroom mirror. Jack Nicklaus' TPC of Michigan, host of a Champions Tour major for 16 years, is just as invigorating. The harrowing 14th hole, engulfed in wetlands, might be the toughest par 4 in the state.